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Home  >>  Reviews  >>  Cars  >>  1/32  >>  Carrera

Carrera Digital Racing

Published: November 18, 2008

Carrera Digital Racing

By Jeremy Dunning

 

During the recent motorcycle Moto GP at Indianapolis I had several visitors for the race who were also slot car nuts and we decided to hold the first official race on the Ardenapolis Motor Speedway (I live on Arden Drive). We set up a fully tricked out Carrera Digital 32 set with pit lane, lap timer/computer, and a bunch of very nice Carrera buildings and accessories. The participants ranged from slot car collector types like me to guys recapturing the slot car craze of their youthful days. We held a series of races including an F1 race, a modern NASCAR race, a Classic NASCAR race, a 1/32 hotrod race, and a 1/32nd sports car race. We also had a Woodward Avenue parade with 1/24th hotrods. For those of you who are not from the Midwest the Woodward Avenue is an annual parade of classic and hotrod cars along Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

In honor of the event, I created an Ardenapolis Pace Car by taking an older Carrera Pro-X Superbird, cutting the top off, and putting flashing lights from a Carrera police cruiser on the car. You can see the pace car and the very nice pit building, official’s tower, and pit crew from Carrera in Figure 1. The system even has a pace car function where you can push a button and the pace car will come out of the pit lane and run on the track.

The Ardenapolis pace car and some nice Carrera buildings and accessories

 

Let’s start with the capabilities of the Carrera Digital 32 system. With this system you can run up to six cars. We ran two heats of four because we had eight participants, and I was worried about that many people crowded around the track in my garage. The track was had one long straight, followed by a 180o curve, esses, a short straight and a 60o corner back to the main straight. The track had the pit lane accessory, and the lap timer/counter computer. We had the track fully decorated with trees and Carrera buildings and some of the Carrera people sets. The buildings are pretty easy to put together and the people sets are cool, with transparent bases so they can be moved around. The pit building has nice sliding overhead doors, and can be topped off with the official’s tower which is very nice and has three stories connected with circular stairways. I took one of the stories of the official’s tower and turned it into a restaurant shown in Figure 2. The VIP building and pedestrian bridge are also nice additions to the layout.

We began with the NASCAR race and had two-lap qualification sessions with one car on the track at a time, using the qualifying function of the lap timer/counter computer. It is very simple to program any number of formats for qualifying or racing with this computer. After the qualification we had two 20 lap heats and the top two from each heat went into a 40 lap final. The pace lap of one of the heats is shown in Figure 2. We took the rear wings off the Car of Tomorrow NASCAR entrants because the driving was so rough that I was afraid we would lose them after they flew off the cars. I was surprised at how sturdy the cars were, because there were a lot of accidents and cars flying of the track. There were no breakdowns and the motors and controllers stayed nice and cool.

The pace lap of the NASCAR heat 1

 

The Formula One race had open qualifying with four cars on the track at the same time. The lap timer/counter keeps track of all four cars and their fastest laps, so you can recreate the real F1 qualifying format. We then ran the race with the four fastest qualifiers for 50 laps with the fuel load set so the cars had to come in for fuel once during the race. That feature adds excitement and play value to the racing. The braking effect and speed can also be set on the computer with a very simple set of steps. One thing I appreciated was how well written the instructions are and how simple it was to set up all of the track and accessories. The only time I ran into trouble was when I didn’t read the instruction book and just assumed how something might work. The other nice feature is that you can switch back and forth between Digital 32 and the older Pro-X digital in one simple step. We broke out the Carrera grid girls, as you can see in Figure 3 to add to the pre-race buzz! You can also see in that photo the new Carrera grandstand, which I believe is a model of the ones at the Hockenheim track where the German Grand Prix has been run.

The F1 starting grid with pit girls and the Carrera Grandstand

 

We used the very cool Winner’s Podium for the F-1 awards after the race, as you can see in Figure 4. The race went very well although I was way ahead and had to pit because someone’s front wing came off and lodged under my car. The front wings on the Carrera F-1 cars are designed to come off when banged, which is a good feature is the racing is as rough and chaotic as it was on this occasion. I did finish second by 1.76 seconds according to the lap timer/counter!

To the winner goes the spoils! The Carrera winners podium and the Fly pit tower are shown here

 

After the F-1 race we reprogrammed the track for Pro-X and ran a classic NASCAR race with some of the MOPAR and Ford Torino Pro-X cars. The lap counter/timer works with the older Pro-X cars simply by putting tape over three of the four holes in the guide key. The retrofit ability of Digital 32 is a big feature in my mind because it allows you to use all of your older cars without any difficulty. You can also convert current analog Carrera cars to digital with a simple chip that is easy to install. The action in turn 3 is shown in Figure 5. The older Pro-x cars are very fun, although they are heavier than the current digital NASCAR offerings from Carrera. The magnets on the older cars are a little stronger than the ones on the current cars, so they can compete pretty well and are fun to run. The older Pro-X F-1 cars are also compatible with the Digital 32 system and seem about as fast as the new ones.

Action in the Classic NASCAR race in Turn 3

 

The 1/24 Carrera cars are an additional line that I really love. They run on the Carrera track easily and have lights and beautiful detail. One of the cool features of the lighted 1/24 and 1/32 cars is that you can turn the lights on and off with a button, and even more amazing is the fact that the brake lights come on when you get off the throttle if you have the lights on or off. I know this seems like a minor feature, but it does show the lengths that Carrera is willing to go to provide play value. The 1/24 cars are really entertaining to drive, although we did not have a 1/24th race during the Moto GP race weekend. I found that you can run up to three cars in automatic format with the Carrera system and then run a fourth against them. This is, as far as I know, unique to Carrera and is a really great feature. It means you can have four car races with only one driver and really learn how to drive well in traffic. I have been utilizing this feature a lot since I discovered it and find it is extremely fun. The 1/24th hot rods are also fun to race in digital format. I find that the larger cars are more fun to drive because they behave very much like real cars under hard racing. Carrera will be releasing a group of new 1/24th digital cars including really slick versions of the Corvette Grand Sport and Ferrari GTO. I can’t wait to get my hand on them!

The 1/24 Ferrari SWB GT in action

 

So, the bottom line is that Carrera digital racing with all of the features you can include on your layout provide a fabulous racing experience. The fuel load, speed, braking, and automatic features of the system and the pit lane and pace car features allow you to accurately duplicate real racing and qualifying. Well done Carrera!

The Woodward Cruise with two 1/24 hot rods.



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